The Maharashtra government is yet to set up the state advisory contract labour board to resolve disputes between contract labourers, principal employers and contractors. Officials from the state’s labour department conceded that the board had not been set up in the three years since the BJP-Shiv Sena government took charge, but said the file was pending with the Chief Minister’s Office.
The officials said the state advisory contract labour board was to be set up under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act. Normally, the board is headed by the labour minister while the labour commissioner is the member secretary. Besides, said an official, the board had an equal number of members representing labourers, principal employers and contractors. “The board is required to settle disputes of contract labourers and employers. In the absence of the board for past three years, several issues of the contract labourers have been pending and need to be addressed immediately,” said Sukumar Damle, state president of the All India Trade Union Congress.
Damle further said a major issue among contract labourers was about settling disputes regarding making contractual labourers permanent. “Many disputes are about permanent employment of contract labourers. Though the nature of their work is not seasonal, they are hired on contract by principal employers to avoid giving them benefits that permanent labourers get. The state advisory board is empowered to take a decision on such matters,” said Damle.
However, the labour officials said the proposal of setting up the board was pending with the CMO. “A proposal for setting up the state advisory board has been submitted to the Chief Minister’s Office. It is pending with them,” said a senior official from the department. “Since it is a political decision, the department can’t follow up on the proposal,” added the official. Labour Minister Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.
Damle further said the state government needed to give more powers to the advisory board. “The board can only decide about whether the nature of work is seasonal or throughout the year. It can’t direct the principal employer to make the current slot of contractual labourers as permanent labourers. The government expresses inability citing a Supreme Court judgment for it. It allows the employers to hire new labourers as permanent workers which is an injustice to current labourers. So, the state government should give more powers to the board in the larger interest of labourers,” he said.